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A Look at the Darfur Conflict

Aired May 30, 2005 - 02:30   ET


FEMI OKE, CNN INTERNATIONAL GUEST HOST: (voice-over): Darfur takes center stage in international affairs this week, as diplomats step up efforts to end the two-year conflict that's claimed the lives of thousands. We'll hear of the urgent needs of people in the region.

And then, a judge from the International Criminal Court on efforts to prosecute war-crime suspects from Darfur.

And finally, providing hope for tomorrow's generation: the Moroccan who's making young people's dreams come true.

These stories plus more up next on INSIDE AFRICA.


OKE: Hello. Good to see you. Welcome to the program where we take a look at news and life on the continent. I'm Femi Oke, sitting in for Tumi Makgabo.

This week, Sudan's western Darfur region seemed one again to be getting the attention needed to end a devastating two-year conflict. It got $300 million in pledges from donor nations for the African Union peace- keeping mission. This as NATO pledged logistical support for the peacekeepers.

And on a visit to Darfur on Saturday, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke of an improvement in the humanitarian situation.

But aid workers say getting relief supplies to hundreds of thousands of refugees in the province remains a challenge.

We get more on the relief operation from Jeff Koinange.


JEFF KOINANGE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And (ph) an aid convoy navigates its way along one of the world's most dangerous highways.

This is northern Darfur, an area the size of France and home to what experts refer to as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands of black Africans have been killed and millions more forced to flee their homes, as a government-sponsored Arab militia known as the Janjaweed continues to rape, pillage and burn everything in sight.

For aid workers, these too are tough times, trying to get food aid and farming implements to starving villages before the start of the rainy season, which often comes during the next few months, but not always guaranteed.

After numerous setbacks though, the convoy finally arrives in the village of Abunashab (ph). The International Committee of the Red Cross documents the trip with its own cameras.

BRENTON MACLEOD, ICRC: And the theory behind this is that we will give them enough food so that they can concentrate all their efforts on planting for next year, when the rains come.

KOINANGE: Enough corn, cooking oil and lentils to last several months, provided it's used for only one meal a day.

"We are thirsty; we need water. We're having a hard time irrigating our land," says Sheikh Suleiman Jakob. "All we've got is that one well over there. We're lacking in everything."

Lacking most of all is security. These villagers know they face imminent death if they venture beyond the camp's perimeter.

But some, like Mariam Mohammed Bukam (ph), who walked two hours with her donkey to get here, know she has no choice but to risk the trek back to her village. Of her eight children, she says, four were killed by the Janjaweed. The four survivors depend on her making it home with this food.

Several hours later, another refugee camp and another food- distribution exercise. New arrivals have just made it to Abu Shak camp (ph), joining others who've been here for close to a year.

People like Umda Hessein Issa, who remembers the day the Janjaweed came calling.

"They set fire to everything. They looted and killed. And these problems continue unabated. Only when peace is fully restored will people be able to settle down in places where they will have their dignity and no longer be exposed to danger," he says.

But danger seems to lurk everywhere here, in Darfur's desolate landscapes.

Jeff Koinange, CNN, Lavos (ph).


OKE: Paul Conneally is a spokesman for the International Red Cross in Sudan. He's now back in Khartoum after that relief mission, and only this week he gave CNN's Jim Clancy an assessment of the situation.


PAUL CONNEALLY, ICRC SUDAN: Well, we've been operational since August 2003, and we've started an IDT (ph) camps. But with the addition of many more agencies, we have now used our capacity - our logistical capacity in particular - to focus on rural areas, because there are hundreds of thousands of people beyond the reach of aid in rural areas. And this is our main focus at the moment: delivering water, food, seeds and tools.

The real urgent need, according to our analysis at the moment, is for people to return. But in order to do so, it must be done so in a safe and secure environment, because right now is the planting season, and if people do not have the opportunity to plant in the next coming weeks and months, then an entire harvest will have been lost, and people will be dependent on aid - millions of people dependent on aid for another 18 months, at the very least.

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: When you say dependent on aid, are there concerns that this is going to become a long-term problem? In other words, people gathering in urban centers, where some of the shelters are, and simply not going home? Simply staying there and being dependent?


I mean, it is turning into a phenomenon of urban poor, where they - they cannot contribute to the agricultural production, which has been their livelihood to date. They cannot trade in the marketplace because they have nothing to trade with.

The very few people that have remained in the rural areas may contribute to some sort of harvest this summer, but then they have many, many more people to feed because there's so many people who won't - that won't be planting crops this - this coming planting season.

Last year, it was less than 40 percent of the territory - the arable territory that was planted. This year, it risks being even lower.

So, people are now in the process of being trapped in a cycle of aid dependence, which is now a very encouraging scenario.

CLANCY: For them, it comes down to a question of security. You would like them to return to their homes. The African Union is hoping to more than triple the size of its observer forces there.

But are observer forces really doing the job that's needed in Darfur?

CONNEALLY: I think where the African Union have been deployed, that they have certainly had an impact, and a positive impact.

Nevertheless, even by their own assessments, they are vastly under- resourced. And it is true now they will increase - triple their size. But still it will be a rather small force in a very huge area - 7,000 peacekeepers in an area the size of France.

CLANCY: We have heard the message from Kofi Annan; we have heard the message from so many other world leaders about the situation in Darfur.

Have the rebel militias, the two main ones - have the Janjaweed militia, that has sided with the government here - have they listened at all?

CONNEALLLY: We are in constant dialogue in the ICRC with all of the parties of the conflict, from the very ground level of the young guys baring weapons in the field, to the high commanders in the capitals - in the state capitals an in Khartoum, with the government and with the armed forces.

They are listening. It is a very complex situation to resolve. Violations of international humanitarian law have been widespread and have taken place, but there is an improvement. But nevertheless, today, insecurity continues. Banditry is on the rise, which makes it a lot more difficult for humanitarian workers to assist people and to really go into remote areas, to those people that are in most need.


OKE: And that was Paul Conneally of the International Red Cross, talking to Jim Clancy.

Now, still ahead, preparing to prosecute suspected war criminals from Darfur. We'll hear from the judge of the International Criminal Court.

And, hominizing the call to prayer in Cairo. See you on the other side.


OKE: Hello again. Welcome back.

In late March, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution that authorized the prosecution of those responsible for atrocities in Darfur.

South African Navanethem Pillay will be involved in the legal proceedings. She spoke with us recently about the task at hand.


OKE (voice-over): Navanethem Pillay is one of the judges who will hear cases against those who will be accused of war crimes against the people of Darfur.

NAVANETHEM PILLAY, JUDGE, INTL. CRIMINAL COURT: There's a secret list, which is confidential, where the - about 50 persons have been identified. So the intention is a criminal prosecution and - that the world should let Sudan know that they will no longer tolerate these crimes.

OKE: About 50 people, including government officials in Khartoum, members of the feared Janjaweed militia, and rebels.

And already Khartoum has protested the U.N. resolution, with President Omar El-Bashir vowing not to turn any Sudanese citizen over to the court for prosecution.

That, Judge Pillay says, may make the work of the U.N. prosecutors difficult.

PILLAY: I imagine that what the prosecutor and the investigators will face on the ground may well be lots of obstructive gestures and not much assistance on the ground. But the remedy, then, is you report to the Security Council, and the government will then have to answer for that.

OKE: Judge Pillay brings her experience from the Rwandan War Crimes Tribunal in Arusha to the International Court. She served as president of the Arusha Tribunal, where several high-profile personalities have been convicted of genocide.

PILLAY: In the Rwandan tribunal, it is a few - about 50 or slightly more - accused persons. But look who they are. The prime minister of the Rwanda has been convicted of committing genocide and has been sentenced to life imprisonment. And we have blocked virtually 11 members of parliament from the government in custody.

OKE: Critics say it may be different in the case of Darfur. They say with war-crimes charges pending against government and rebel officials, it may be difficult to get them to cooperate in finding a solution to the conflict.

That also worries Judge Pillay.

PILLAY: There - there should be multiple approaches to resolving the problem there. The prosecutor is expected to investigate right in the middle of conflict; there are killings going on there right now, according to reports.

There should be some kind of measures to control the situation.

OKE: The United States and human-rights organizations say this man, Musa Hilal, is one of the people who should be charged. They say he heads the Janjaweed militias, who are accused of raping and killing black Africans.

But Hilal denies being involved in any mass killings and other forms of abuse against the people of Darfur.

Today, he is involved in trying to promote what he says is tribal unity, by encouraging marriages between Arabs and black Africans. And he's offering a cash payout to all who intermarry. This, Musa Hilal believes, will help bring peace to Darfur, rather than the U.N. prosecution of suspected war criminals.

In fact, he says he will not agree to what he calls the humiliation of being prosecuting abroad.


OKE: For more on the situation in Darfur, visit our Web site at And there you'll find stories on the U.N. secretary- general's visit to the region. The address once again,

Switching gears now from fifth all the way down to second. Yes, there's a story in Africa that's a little curious and a little off the beaten path. We continue (ph) to allow on our Sylvia Smith to bring it to us.

Take the instance - the controversy in Egypt about giving mosques a high-tech upgrade. This week, Sylvia Smith found herself right in the middle of it.


SYLVIA SMITH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wherever you are in Cairo, there's always a mosque within sight and sound.


SMITH: As part of a huge upgrading program in Old Cairo, these historic places of prayer are being given a thorough overhaul.

ZAMI HAWASS, DIRECTOR OF EGYPTIAN ANTIQUITIES: Two hundred and ten monuments have been restored. Mosques, like the Mosque of Al-Houri (ph) - we stayed 10 years since the 1992 - since the earthquake damaged that mosque - we're going to open it to the public soon.


SMITH: And there are other changes afoot too.

One of the distinguishing sounds of Egypt's capital: the call to prayer.


SMITH: For centuries, the man responsible for summoning the faithful to pray would climb to the top of the minaret, and use only the power of his voice.


SMITH: But today, making the call to prayer audible isn't easy. Heavy traffic drowning out even the most powerful human voice letting the faithful know it's time to prepare for prayer.

ASHRAP FAMMI, ARCHITECT: In the past time, the second sheikh to call to prayer - in the past time to climb the minaret and to call the prayer and up the minaret - and now using the voice, the mic to call the prayer in this time.


SMITH: But amplification drew complaints, as thousands of mosques and prayer halls turned up the volume to attract the faithful.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs decided it was time to step in.

"With over 5,000 mosques competing with one another," the minister says, "It was like the war of the loudspeakers. Not a pleasant or attractive sound to encourage a pious frame of mind," he says.

The minister's solution: to have a centralized call to prayer, using the city's radio stations to broadcast the most tuneful voices to all the city's mosques.

The minister says that not everyone likes the idea of each mosque broadcasting the same call through a receiver, even though the city's leading clerics have given their approval.

With the specially designed speakers already in production, it's only a matter of time before these professional muezzin are replaced.

While supporters say standardization of the Adan, or call to prayer, offers a modern and practical solution that creates harmony, opponents are wondering if this is just the first step towards giving the state greater control over the way mosques are run.

For CNN's INSIDE AFRICA, I'm Sylvia Smith in Cairo, Egypt.


OKE: Thank you very much, Sylvia. Did you see the director of Egyptian antiquities at the very top of that story? He's my all-time favorite Egysh - Egyptian, I should say - Zawi Hawass. Such passion. Such energy about all things Egyptian. I think I have a little crush.

Still ahead on INSIDE AFRICA, the pediatrician who's gone on beyond the call to duty to save the lives of thousands of Moroccan children.

Don't go away. See you in two minutes.


OKE: Hello. I'm so glad you came back, because we go now to Morocco for the story of a doctor who's helping the children of Casablanca prepare to face tomorrow.

Ten years ago, she started an organization that began taking young people off the streets and providing homes for them.

Janpica Naryad (ph) reports.


JANPICA NARYAD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ghani is a proud 18-year-old whose first job, as a metal recycler in the largest steel company in Casablanca, puts a smile on his face.

Five years ago, Ghani ran away from a broken home, and at 13 the streets of Casablanca became his home. But Ghani is among the lucky ones.

GHANI, FORMER HOMELESS MAN (through translator): I thank Allah that I'm here. BAYTI helped me, and I'm very happy that they care.

NARYAD: Shortly after leaving home, he was rescued from the streets by this one: pediatrician Najat M'jid. BAYTI is an organization founded by Dr. M'jid back in 1995 to cater to the needs of the homeless and abandoned children.

DR. NAJAT M'JID, FOUNDER, BAYTI (through translator): This organization was created because too many kids started to appear on my streets in Casablanca. I decided to follow them and find out why they are living 24 hours on the streets, and the state is not taking any steps to help them.

NARYAD: Dr. M'jid says she first turned to the authorities to help, but the response was slow. So she made it her personal mission to save the children and fight for their rights.

M'JID (through translator): There was no time. These kids needed help. The main thing here is to reach out and talk to them first, then offer them shelter.

NARYAD: She began taking children into her home and caring for them. And over the years, her organization, BAYTI, has helped more than 11,000 children, many of them victims of divorce, abuse of all kinds, domestic violence, sex crimes and poverty.

The organization says, since January of this year, it's taken more than 370 kids under the age of 3, and over 240 preteens off the streets and hospital doorsteps.

People like 3-year-old Ayman (ph) and 4-year-old Ahmet (ph).

BAYTI owns 10 apartment buildings in Casablanca, where the children live in groups of eight. And there's a family atmosphere here, with each home having a cook, a psychologist and a foster mom, who greet the children when they return from school, counsel them, and even share dinner with them.

There are also social workers, artists and volunteer students from around the world who come to help, like Virginia from Belgium.

VIRGINIA, VOLUNTEER STUDENT, BELGIUM (through translator): I am here as a liaison between the young kids in Belgium and the little ones here in Morocco.

NARYAD: BAYTI also runs several training facilities, like this carpentry workshop for boys, and a tailoring center for girls.

Dr. M'jid, who splits her time between running BAYTI and a medical profession, says she believes in the hopes and dreams of these young children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I want to grow up and be a lawyer.

NARYAD: Despite the success, there have been some setbacks. Dr. M'jid says last year, more than 120 students left BAYTI and returned to the streets, with some getting involved in activities that have landed them in prison.

Yet BAYTI keeps its doors open, and is determined to make a difference in the lives of Morocco's young and homeless.

Janpica Naryad (ph) for INSIDE AFRICA.


OKE: Goodness me. Who could abandon a little darling like that?

Thank you very much to Isabel Reach (ph), who not only went to Morocco, she shot that story and also produced it. Thanks, Isabel.

Finally this week, we dip into our mailbag for a look at some of your letters.


OKE (voice-over): A recent program about democracy stirred many emotions, some positive.

Ben Atkinson writes from Birmingham, England: "It's fantastic to see so many positive events and developments in this continent. Keep up the go work."

Others were more critical.

Nahusenay expressed his disappointment, because he says we did not feature Ethiopia's elections: "The fact that this has been an important event deserves the least bit of attention by your side," he writes. "This will definitely be an issue if some kind of conflict arises. But it is a first step to democracy."

Yusuf Usanu Haile also thinks we haven't got it right on Ethiopia: "I feel it is very difficult for you to report on some positive changes that are going on in the oldest and never-colonized African nation. All that I've managed to see on INSIDE AFRICA again and again about Ethiopia is hunger, famine and conflict with Eritrea."

Point well taken, Yusuf.

Musa in Zambia would like us to highlight the positive moves towards democracy in his country. He notes: "I think you are doing the story of democracy in Zambia an injustice by referring to it was questionable elections alongside Zimbabwe. Most of the countries you refer to have experienced war. Zambia, by the grace of God, has not. Surely we have done well and can do even better, but we are certainly the oldest democracy in Africa that has not been broken since independence," he writes.

Yan Egalend, the U.N.'s emergency relief coordinator's statement, that wealthy nations discriminate and are stingy when it comes to Africa, spurred A. Albida to write this: "Thank you, Mr. Egalend. And I do hope your open criticism and fight for the poor human beings suffering in Africa, will be supported by other high officials that simply see, listen and neglect to react."


OKE: And that's why we love the INSIDE AFRICA audience: they're not shy at telling us what they think about the program.

Let us know what you think of the stories you see on our show. The address, INSIDEAFRICA @

That is all for this week's program. I'm Femi Oke. Normal Tumi Makgabo service will be resumed next Saturday.

Take care.




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